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Published: Sunday, 7/15/2007

Potter has cast a spell on Toledo area fans

BY ANN WEBER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
The final book in the series rushes into stores at midnight Saturday.
<br>
<img src=http://www.toledoblade.com/assets/gif/TO17150419.GIF> VIEW: <a href=" /assets/pdf/TO23453715.PDF" target="_blank "><b>Toledo Magazine: Keeping up with Harry</b></a>
<br>
<img src=http://www.toledoblade.com/assets/gif/TO1599743.GIF> MULTIMEDIA: <a href=" /Assets/harrypotter715/working-harry.html" target="_blank "><b>Look over the Harry Potter book series</b></a>



The final book in the series rushes into stores at midnight Saturday. <br> <img src=http://www.toledoblade.com/assets/gif/TO17150419.GIF> VIEW: <a href=" /assets/pdf/TO23453715.PDF" target="_blank "><b>Toledo Magazine: Keeping up with Harry</b></a> <br> <img src=http://www.toledoblade.com/assets/gif/TO1599743.GIF> MULTIMEDIA: <a href=" /Assets/harrypotter715/working-harry.html" target="_blank "><b>Look over the Harry Potter book series</b></a>
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Once Harry Potter winds up his literary career, he ought to think seriously about becoming secretary-general of the United Nations.

After all, the boy wizard who was created by author J.K. Rowling has managed to unite millions of people around the globe, young and old, male and female. In northwest Ohio alone, his ardent fans include a 10-year-old girl, an 18-year-old man, and a 62-year-old woman, among many others.

It's magic, indeed.

"I have lost count how many times I've read each of them," Jenny Zaleski, 20, said of the six Harry Potter books. The Lourdes College junior said she's reading them all again in advance of the release Saturday of Book 7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the final installment of the series.

"I like the fantasy, and it's very imaginative, and very creative," she said. "It keeps your attention."

Not that she was hooked right away.

"I've always loved reading, but at first I was skeptical. I thought it was juvenile fiction. Then a friend was reading one, and I started reading over her shoulder and I thought, wait a minute, this isn't juvenile."

<br>
<img src=http://www.toledoblade.com/assets/gif/TO17150419.GIF> VIEW: <a href=" /assets/pdf/TO23455715.PDF" target="_blank "><b>Local Potter fans</b></a>
<br> <img src=http://www.toledoblade.com/assets/gif/TO17150419.GIF> VIEW: <a href=" /assets/pdf/TO23455715.PDF" target="_blank "><b>Local Potter fans</b></a>
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Her 15-year-old sister, Kayla, vowed that as soon as she gets her hands on the new book, "I will not eat, sleep, or breathe until I finish it."

A sophomore at the Toledo School for the Arts, she approaches it with mixed feelings: "I want to know exactly what happens, but I don't want the series to end."

Nancy Eames, 43, agreed. The manager of the children's library at the Toledo-Lucas County Library's Main Branch said she thinks Rowling will do a good job of answering readers' questions and tying up loose ends in the last book, "but you always want to know [things such as] what does Harry do as an adult?"

(Thus she reveals what she thinks will happen in the end - that Harry will live, triumphing over the black-hearted Lord Voldemort, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Not all HP fans agree - but more on that in Wednesday's Peach section, when some of them will share their predictions.)

All good books leave the reader wanting more, Ms. Eames pointed out, because the writer makes you care about the characters.

"I love that the [Harry Potter] stories have real-life situations that take place in this fantastic world, and J.K. Rowling is such a wonderful storyteller that you become part of that world when you read or listen to those stories," Ms. Eames said.

Like other fans, she has read the books and listened to the audiobooks multiple times, and said she continually comes across something new.

Ten-year-old Diana Eby, a sixth-grader at Trilby Elementary, took a kind of Star Wars approach to the series, starting mid-saga with Book 3 and then going back to the first two before cracking the fourth, fifth, and sixth.

"I had seen all the movies, and my Grandma had one of the books that my aunt had given her, so she gave it to me," Diana explained.

"I like how J.K. Rowling makes them so detailed ... you can have the picture in your head of what's going on," she said.

It's a fantasy world in which anyone would want to dwell, observed David Miller, 18, who just graduated from Whitmer High School and will go on to Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, this fall to major in political science.

"Everyone wants to do more than they can - magical things like fly on broomsticks, fly things to yourself, do any of the spells," Mr. Miller said.

He has grown up along with Harry, Ron, Hermione, and the rest of the students at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Mr. Miller read the first book when he was in second grade. "I loved it and have been reading them ever since," he said.

Reading them veryveryfast, by the way, and then going back for a second, longer drink.

For each of the last three books, Mr. Miller said, he has attended midnight book-release events to get a copy and plunged in immediately. "I have each time read the books twice on opening day," he said. The last one - the hefty Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - he had finished by 7 that morning.

"No other books do I read this fast. They draw me in and I can't put them down."

Rowling has cast the same spell on Marilee McSweeny, 62, manager of the Reynolds Corners Branch library.

"You can't put them down. You just have to keep going," confessed Mrs. McSweeny, whose license plate reads 1 MUGGLE. (If you're a fan, you know what that means. If not, well ...)

Mrs. McSweeny said Rowling juggles multiple, complex plot threads with interesting characters, humor, and rich detail. "She has a real knack for making you see these people, a knack of describing scenes and incidents so you feel you're there."

And as an English major in school, Mrs. McSweeny said "there's a lot of passing references that show this is a woman who has a tremendous background in mythology, literature, and history."

She thinks maybe all those things explain Harry Potter's appeal to readers of all ages.

"It's kind of like The Simpsons," Mrs. McSweeny said. Just as Homer, Bart, and company draw laughs from children and adults alike - not necessarily for the same reasons - "Different people bring their own experiences to [the Harry Potter books] and probably read them on different levels," she said.

The Harry Potter magic whisked Tiffany Townsend, 31, back to her childhood.

A teacher at the Ohio Virtual Academy, Mrs. Townsend said she bought the first book after hearing talk-show host Rosie O'Donnell rave about it.

"To me it was like the first time when I was a kid and read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," she said. "I fell in love with it."

Mrs. Townsend said she re-reads the books every summer, a process that makes the author's bigger picture easier to see. "Her plan becomes more clear when you go back and read the earlier ones."

Jeffrey Beam, 34, who works in human resources at Charter One Bank and is worship minister at McCord Road Christian Church, said it was the Harry Potter movies that turned him onto the books.

He also was intrigued, he said, because there was some controversy about the theme of witchcraft in children's books. He didn't want to form an opinion without reading them himself, Mr. Beam said.

"My wife [Heather] and I started reading them just about three years ago," he said.

Actually, he does the reading.

"I read them out loud to my wife," he said. "It's a nice, relaxing quality time together."

Contact Ann Weber at: aweber@theblade.com or 419-724-6126.



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